Come, join Dish: Zee to Star, Sony

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) initiatives have energised mangers of country's first DTH service, Dish TV, 20 per cent owned by the Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee Telefilms Ltd.

No sooner broadcast regulator issued interconnect regulations today, making it mandatory to make available all channels on a non-discriminatory basis to all platforms, Dish TV invited Star India and Sony Entertainment TV India to join the platform within 30 days.

"Dish TV has already approached Star and Sony for providing their content/channels to its DTH platform. We sincerely hope that in the spirit of (interconnect) regulations, they will respond positively within a period of 30 days, as provided in the notification vied clause 3.6 of the regulation," Essel Group vice-chairman Jawahar Goel said today.

Essel Group is the omnibus entity under which Chandra carries out his various business ventures.

Asked by whether Dish TV expects Star and Sony to be overtly co-operative, Goel hinted that legal recourse would be taken if regulations were not followed by others.

"It's too early to say, but in the worst case scenario, we would have no other option, but to move TDSAT (industry disputes redressal tribunal)," Goel explained.

Indian pubcaster Doordarshan and Zee Telefilms have been in the forefront, lobbying for a must-provide regime, which would make their DTH services that much more attractive. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is slated to inaugurate DD's DTH service on 16 December.

Contacted by, Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea, who is away to Hong Kong, said over phone that Dish TV's request is an old one and Star would study Trai recommendations further before taking a stand on the issue. SET India chief executive officer Kunal Dasgupta had this to offer, "If it is non-discriminatory, there is no problem."

Hailing the Trai initiative as a revolutionary one, Goel said that the regulator has rightfully recognised the need for a 'must provide' regime and this regulation would "promote competition in the broadcasting and distribution sector and shall provide a genuine choice to the consumers."

According to clause 3.2 of the Trai notification, every broadcaster shall provide on request signals of its TV Channels on nondiscriminatory terms to all distributors of TV channels, which may include, but be not limited to a cable operator, director to home operator, multi system operators, head end in the sky operator. On request, multi system operators shall re-transmit signals received from a broadcaster on a nondiscriminatory basis to cable operators.

In its interconnect regulations, Trai has stated, "In India, competition for delivery of TV channels is not only to be promoted within the cable industry, but also from distributors of TV channels using other media like DTH and headends in the sky. It is important that all these distribution platforms are promoted so that they provide consumers with choice."

"The DTH services have to compete with Cable TV. If a popular content is available on cable TV and not on the DTH platform, then it would not be able to effectively give competition to the cable networks. Moreover if a popular content is available on the cable network and is not available on the DTH platform, it would never be able to give an effective alternative to the cable services. Competition between cable and DTH will be enhanced if all the content is available on both platforms."

Essel Group promoted Dish TV is India's first DTH service provider offering close to 100 television channels spread across different genres of programming. Dish TV started operations in October, 2003 and claims approximately 170,000 subscribers across India.

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